Were YOU Wrong About R. Kelly?

Were YOU Wrong About R. Kelly?

[OPINION] Jamilah Lemieux says it's time to be honest with ourselves about the R&B superstar, and to stop hiding from the truth

Jamilah Lemieux

by Jamilah Lemieux, December 17, 2013

Were YOU Wrong About R. Kelly?

Aaliyah and R. Kelly, at ages 14 and 27, respectively.

Earlier this week, the Village Voice published an interview with writer Jim DeRogatis, whose extensive coverage of the R. Kelly sexual assault scandal for the Chicago Sun-Times (and later, Vibe) was consumed nationwide…yet largely and willfully ignored by many who chose to dismiss the allegations against Kelly as rumors (#hatersalwaystryingtotakeablackmandownwhenhestryingtodosomethingpostivewithhislife) or who felt that the alleged victims should shoulder the onus of the blame (#fasttailedgirls) or who felt that what matters most is the singer’s musical capabilities (#girliwanttotossyoursalad). And those who may fall outside of those more tidy categories, those whose consumerism is not tempered by any need to be informed about the people whom they support; where knowing and not knowing might as well be the same thing. He makes great music, what exactly else are we supposed to be concerned with?

Positioned squarely in the middle of R. Kelly’s media blitz around his new record, Black Panties, the painful-to-read interview has forced some of those people to face the sheer volume of information THAT HAS BEEN AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC FOR OVER A DECADE regarding Kelly’s history with young girls in Chicago, where he was known to cruise parking lots and McDonald’s restaurants in search of prey. Nearly 20 years since the release of former-wife Aaliyah’s Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number (and this unbelievable Video Soul interview) and 11 years after the Sun-Times broke the child pornography story, there are still those who vehemently defend the 46-year-old “Marry the Pussy” singer. Something I find to be absolutely heartbreaking.

Jim DeRogatis' reporting over the last 15 years has taught him something I've come to terms with for the past nearly-30: "nobody matters less to our society than young Black women."

There is no defense for Robert Kelly in 2013. And there is no defense for those who claim that there isn’t sufficient evidence to call this man an abuser of children, if not in his current life, then as recent as the early 2000s.

Save “let He who is without sin cast the first stone” for some minor offense. Do your sins include sexual acts with children? Because mine don’t. Do your sins include being an unrepentant repeat abuser of children? Because mine don’t. And have you honestly lived your life without judging or believing in punishment and repentance for doing bad things? If you answer ‘yes’ to that, I would assume that lying is one of the sins that you are guilty of. So line up and come get these stones to throw.

Save “They always trying to hold a Black celebrity down!” for an instance when there isn’t undeniable evidence of the crime that was circulated on Napster and in barbershops and chicken spots across the country.

Save “Where were their parents?” because anyone with half a brain knows how easy it is for a teenager to schedule time for behavior that one’s mom or dad would take issue with. We should absolutely question any parent who allowed their child to have unsupervised time with an adult male, but ultimately, R. Kelly is the one who is seen taking advantage of these young girls on tape and no one else.

Save “He was found not guilty!” Read up on how the case was tanked and tell me that it’s because the rape didn’t happen.

Save “You gotta hold those fast a** little girls accountable!” because there is a reason why there are laws stating that young girls---children---are unable to give consent to adults. And ask yourself why you are unable to see Black girl children as victims. And save the suggestion that only poorly raised or "fast" girls go off with older men. Please. I don't think I would have went for R. Kelly because I don't find him attractive. But let that had been Common or Q-Tip or Maxwell or someone I was attracted to, let some handsome, older man had told me and my braces that I should be a star and hey, you want to go shopping---I won't dare pretend that I know I wouldn't go for that. Men who are predators are looking for the teenager who will go for it. So you have "fast" girls, okay. What if the men ignored them and, instead, went for available, hot women?

Go look at a class of high school freshmen and then go look at a 27-year-old man. Go look at Aaliyah in 1994, all of 15 years old, and ask yourself why that image of her sitting next to an adult man with whom she was clearly intimately connected was not alarming to the masses. Go look at Kelly in the foreground of her debut album WHICH WAS CALLED AGE AINT NOTHING BUT A NUMBER.

Read Jim DeRogatis’ reporting and the court documents. Read them for yourself.

While I do look at people in wonder for

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